Pence History
This account first appeared in the October 1985 issue of the Trailblazer, pp 6-8. It was written by then Association historian, Charlie Pence. It was originally in 7 parts and appeared in the Jan 86, Spring 86, Fall 86, Winter 87, Spring 87 and Summer 87 issues of the Trailblazer.

Author's Note: This account of the 70th Infantry Division campaign of February and March 1945 is based largely on the "US Seventh Army Report of Operations," Volumes Two and Three and to a lesser extent, on Division G-2 and G-3 summaries and journals. Recollections of personal experiences during this campaign reported by Trailblazer veterans have been included. Some errors of fact have been discovered in the Seventh Army report and corrected - there may be others.

Period maps in 1:50,000 scale can be found here.

Donald C Pence
B/275

The 70th, Reunited and Rarin' to Go

By early February 1945, the 275th and 276th had arrived on the Sarre front, where they had been assigned to the XVth Corps, on the left flank in the Seventh Army's defensive dispositions. The Seventh Army's front ran through northern Lorraine so close to the border that German national territory was visible from many places in the Aiiierican lines, which faced generally north. Meanwhile, their brother regiment, the 274th Infantry, remained in the Low Vosges Mountains in the vicinity of Bitche, where on January 29 it had been attached to the 100th Division and assigned as reserve elements in the "Century" Division's defensive deployments.

The three regiments could look back on the month of January and the last days of' 1944 as the period of' their first combat; they had performed effectively in the Seventh Army's successful defense against the German First Army's Nordwind offensive. Attached to the 45th Division and committed separately and at different times and places during this offensive, the three regiments had gradually reassembled and were back under the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas W Herren 70th Asssistant Division Commander and commander of the task force bearing his name. Most notably, the 2nd Battalion, 274th was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its outstanding work in the recapture of Wingen and its defense during the German offensive.

Task Force Herren had emerged from this trial badly understrength, battered and bloodied but it was a confident outfit as it assembled near the valley of' the Saar River. January had seen the three regiments take over 1100 men killed or wounded, to rank with the veteran 45th and 79th divisions as having received the heaviest casualties in the Seventh Army's most costly month during World War II. Men of the task force would remember their many comrades who had become casualties during their initial trial in combat. Too, they would remember an enemy who exhibited a persistent toughness and determination and on occasion exploited the Americans' inexperience by his employment of' battle tested deceptions. Certainly they would remember the harshness of' the setting, -the relentless cold, the snow and ice, the rocky and precipitous terrain-which redoubled the hardships of' their lives in combat.

With the arrival of Maj. Gen. Allison J. Barnett and his station February 3, Task Force Herren was dissolved and it's elements were merged back into the 70th Division. The components which had arrived from the States only a short time before, closed into their respective assembly areas. The 274th Regiment joined the reconstituted division on February 9 from the 100th Division.

On the defensive front, on the right of the 70th Division, was the 63rd Division, in the Sarreguemines area. On the left, the 106th Cavalry Group had covered the XV Corps West flank; however, on February 11 the 101st Cav alry Group took over those defensive positions southwest of Saarbrucken.

During the first weeks of Februarv, the Seventh Army received an influx of replacement troops, and it's units conducted intensive programs of training, and battle indoctrination. The 70th handled its 2,000 replacements in typical fashion. Since most of the new arrivals had had a minimum of infantry experience, they received a rigorous 4-day program covering basic weapons, map reading, use of the compass, battlefield procedures and field work. To promote teamwork, squad and platoon combat practices were emphasized.

To retain initiative during this static period, constant patrolling was carried on, varying in purpose and size -small reconnaissance patrols, larger combat patrols and raids in company strength. In the raids conducted by 70th units on such objectives as the villages of Oetingen, Lixing, and Grosbliederstroff and Brandenbusch woods, the standard mission was to capture prisoners and kill as many of the enemy as possible. After several weeks of preparation, the XVth Corps was ready for offensive action.

The Raids of February 6

Four different actions went on simultaneously with varying degrees of success. All of the gains made that day were conceded back to the enemy. The same ground was fought for and rewon within two weeks.

Pfc Wilfred Gould, Co. I, 275th recalls: "I was in the 2nd Platoon and when we hit Lixing, the Germans - supposed to be only a few who wanted to surrender - were shooting at us from every angle. About 12 of us got only as far as an alley between two houses. Lt. David Turner was shot in the neck just as we got there. Lt. Cannon, in charge, was later relieved for the operation's failure. I was able to knock out a machine gun with a bazooka round, but was then wounded when a sniper bullet exploded a grenade carried by "Swifty," my loader, wounding him fatally. In all, 13 men were wounded and 23 remained missing at midnight after the withdrawal."

A Co. I informal record notes: (That night) "about 2100 T/Sgt. Skeen and S/Sgt. Nelson staggered into the CP on the verge of collapse. From their reports it was gathered that the Company had run into trouble. Lt. Cannon got in about two hours later ahead of other survivors straggling in." Later the Co. I daily record noted that MIAs and wounded continued to straggle back from Lixing for a couple of days and that ultimately 11 men and one officer carried for a time as MIA were presumed captured and dropped from the company roster.

First Lt. Lawrence Southard, Co. G, 275th, remembers: "G Company was assigned the job of hitting Grosbliederstrof. Approaching the towni, my command party took coer in a building next to a mill-race and waterwheel. I told O'Conner and Wilkerson to have a look on the other side. Reaching the top of the rise above the mill-race, both men shouted 'Machine gun!' and jumped back down just as it opend fire. Dirt was spattering us from the bullets pounding into the ground above our heads. There ws one grenade left in our group, and it ws thrown just before we pulled back to the creek.

"Everyone made it except Sgt. Louis Hoger, my commo sergeant. When we got back to the creek, we heard him cal for help. I went back and found him stuck under a footbridge over the mill-race; the radio on his back had become fouled in the bridge underpinning. Lying near him, I was able to coach him into working himself free. Presently we both made it back to the creek.

"Pvt. Donald G. Grisen was killed that day, Sgts. Hill and Hoger had crossed an open area adjacent to a storage shed. Then Grisen, another man and I started across when an enemy machine gun opened fire. All three of us hit the ground. Grisen as hit with a hail of bullets and lay there unmoving. I crawled back to the shed. The other man moved a leg, and Sgt. Hill called to him asking him whether he was hurt. When the man answered he didn't think so, Hill shouted back, 'Well get your ass over here!' And he did."

S/Sgt. Charles Lobs, Co. K, 275th, recounts that they were sent out about 0300 to take high ground, Brandenbusch, above Grosbliederstroff. "Whatta 15 hours!

"Near the crest the Germans had a schuh-mine field bounded by a hayrake and what we called a 'pissmobile.' Our scout didn't realize this and lost a foot right away. Eppstein, our medic, was called and was just finishing his work on the scout when he accidentally fell on four more schuhmines and was killed instantly."

The 11-days between the raids and the opening of the drive to the heights overlooking Saarbruecken was devoted to continued training, patrolling, organizing of the just reconstituted division, and preparations for the offensive. In between the men struggled for warmth and rest against continuing cold and wet and, once in a great while, found some diversion from their Spartan regimen.

First Lt. Walter Bogart, Sv. Co., 276th, thinks back: "Aside from carrying out their myiad support duties to keep the regiments clothed, watered, fed, shooting, communicating and on wheels, the men and officers of the service Companies had their exposures to danger when their duties brought them close to the front. Even the near rear area had its risks-there were land mines, booby-traps, long-range artillery and air attacks to keep life behind the front under tension."

Bogart and Sgt. Larry Hadley were in a jeep one night at the rear of a company truck convoy hauling ammo. Behind the "light line," Hadley had the jeep's headlights on. There was a sudden flash of what Bogart first took to be lightning or power-transformer explosion, then realized it was an enemy aircraft, "Bedcheck Charley, " on a strafing run against the column.

Coming to the same conclusion, Hadley hit the light switch, but the two men agreed that it seemed like an eternity before the headlights blinked out. "Charley' circled the area several times, then left. Luckily there were no casualties and no vehicle damage.

Ray Mienheartt, Co. E, 276th, recollects: "Prior to moving out, the company was assembling outside a huge barn which had sheltered us the night before. In the barn, a sergeant was putting on his overcoat when he heard the firing mechanism snap on a grenade which had fallen loose from his coat lapel. Grabbing up the grenade, the sergeant scrambled to the barn door and, with a yell, hastily threw it.

"The live grenade landed amid a group of 15 or so and exploded before anyone could hit the ground. Amazingly only one man was hit-T/Sgt. Jack Ramsey caught a fragment at the base of his skull. Evacuated, he recovered in a few days and returned to his company for combat service which would win him a battlefield commission, a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with clusters, and two Purple Hearts. Some 40 years later Ramsey died of complications attributed to the slight wound by the grenade fragment."

First Lt. Ted Heck, 3rd Bn S-2, 275th, recalls: "Higher headquarters soon required that patrols be accompanied by one or more members of the I&R regimental platoon-to observe and critique patrolling techniques. On a night raid into Kerbach by two platoons from a 3rd Bn rifle company, two I&R men went along. Aside from having a firefight in Kerbach with no casualties, the only noteworthy incident was the tripping-off of two enemy 'Bouncing Betty' antipersonnel mines which sprayed both I&R observers with rock fragments making them our only 'casualties.' The S-2 conclusion-the mines had been sabotaged, or shortages had caused the German war industry to substitute rocks for metal fragments in loading the cannisters of the mines."

The offensive planned for the middle of February was defined as an attack with a limited objective, "to rectify and shorten present lines." There were two prominent sags in the line, one at Gros Rederching in the 44th Division sector, the other at Welferding in 63rd's sector. These two divisions were to straighten out their fronts by attacking. Meanwhile, the 70th Division to the west was directed to keep abreast of these attacks by moving its entire front forward. The operations plan called for the Trailblazers to attack on D plus 2, two days after the 44th Division opened the offensive. D-Day was set for February 15; H-Hour, for 0645.

Attack! The 70th at the Siegfried Line

ON THEIR POSITIONS the regiments of the 70th confronted a series of unevenly wooded hills dominating wide, uncovered draws. A network of roads following the valleys connected the many towns and villages along them with the industrial and mining centers of Forbach, Stiring Wendel, and Saarbruecken - the southern gateway to Germany's Saar industrial basin and a bastion in the Siegfried Line. A Division G-2 report described the enemy's defenses: "Multiple belts of entrenchments extend along the southern and southeastern slopes of the ridge system from Kleinwaldchen (woods) to Pfaffenwald (forests). Belts of anti-tank ditches and obstacles also extend in this zone. Secondary lines of entrenchments extend from Kerbach to Lixing, and along the Saar River through Kleinblittersdorf (opposite Grosbliederstroff) to Saarbruecken. An anti-tank ditch extends east from Alsting to the Saar. The Siegfried Line of permanent pillboxes extends along the southern outskirts of Saarbruecken, then follows the Saar River to the northwest."

Immediately before the beginning of the XVth Corps offensive, Div. G-2 identified the major enemy infantry components as the 347th Infantry Division with three battalions in the line and the 19th Volks Grenadier Division with two battalions in the line. The enemy also had an estimated 800 reserves in the Forbach - Stiring Wendel area.

In the overall scheme the Division's mission was to take the heights along the Saar River south and southwest of Saarbruecken. The plan called for seizure of the high ground extending due west from Schoeneck and the larger, mostly wooded, range of hills running southeast from Stiring Wendel to Buebingen. The 70th attack was to be made with all three regiments on line, the 276th on the left, the 274th in the center, and the 275th on the right.

One minute after midnight, February 17, the 276th, with the 3rd Battalion on the left and the 1st on the right, moved out through a heavy fog toward its initial objective: the hills between Oeting and Forbach. The main enemy positions ran west from the southern edge of Forbach and southeast from there through Oeting to the height Kelsberg. The 3rd Battalion advanced quickly through enemy small arms fire to take the height Fahrberg while the 1st Battalion took Kelsberg. Key defenses at Oeting remained in enemy hands.

The two battalions launched attacks simultaneously on Oeting from east and west but were driven back by intensive fire from self-propelled 88mm guns. Heavily mined roads forestalled the use of armor to support the attack, and the 1st and 3rd battalions withdrew to their two hills to dig in.

IN THE DIVISION CENTER the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 274th had crossed the line of departure at 4:30 a.m. on February 17. Their assignments were the clearing of Stiring Wendel and occupation, with the 275th, of the heights south of the Saar. But there was an intervening series of hills and towns to be taken beforehand. The first objective was Kerbach and then the high ground to the northwest. Kerbach was entered, but the advance stalled there when enemy tanks counterattacked from Etzling and Behren. Artillery support was summoned and the response beat back the enemy armor. By 4:20 p.m. Kerbach and Behren were cleared.

After moving through K Company in Behren during the predawn hours on the 17th, I Company, 274th was moving in two columns along a trail across an open field when it became pinned down by machine-gun fire. From the adjacent woods came a voice shouting in broken English: "Americans, Americans vee vill giff you 10 minutes to put down your arms and surrender; othervise you vill all die."

The ultimatum was repeated, but not a second time, after an I Co. rifleman fired a clip into the woods. Still the company was stalled where it was behind the leading platoon, which was taking casualties from enemy shellfire, as it remained without initiative. Then 2nd Lt. Harold D. Wilson came up from the rear, began urging those around him to get going, and led the way into the woods. The advance, once started again, continued on to the objective, with Wilson occasionally calling out, "Let's keep going! Let's keep going!" even after being wounded by Panzerfaust fragments in the face and leg. Wilson was killed a couple of weeks later.

Following the Behren-Forbach road, L Company, 274th moved forward on I Company's left, initially encountering no opposition, although there was firing all around it. Then it was taken under machine-gun fire. Hitting the dirt, the men waited, but not for long. S/Sgt. Harold F. May crept and crawled forward until he got within range. Then he started tossing hand grenades, accounting for two Jerry machine guns. Then the Company got moving again. He was awarded the Silver Star.

First Lt. Fred Cassidy, Co. G, 274th, recalls that its advance on the 17th left G Company out front of the assault companies on its flanks. It had taken and held the key Wingertsknopf height, north of the Behren-Kerbach road. Accordingly the Company's positions were deployed to defend the height in all directions, and defensive artillery fires covering the approach from Etzling were prearranged. Attached H Co. mortar and machine-gun sections were positioned to cover to the front while the G Co. weapons platoon protected the rear.

The expected German attack, with tanks and infantry, came at dusk and was allowed to approach half way up the slope before the artillery TOT was called in and fire of all weapons on the ground was opened by the firing of flare signals. The attackers were moved down as they came on, taking heavy casualties. The next morning G Company was still on Wingertsknopf when F Company and the 3rd Battalion came upon its flanks. (Note: in "Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes" the 274th combat history, Wingertsknopf was given the name "Cassidy's Hill" in honor of the G Co. commander.)

The 275th on the right flank had been ordered to support the 274th's attack by flanking fire and to advance on its own initial objectives, the towns of Lixing and Grosbliederstroff. With 1st, 3rd, and 2nd battalions abreast from left to right, the 275th had moved into the attack at 1:25 a. m. The 1st Battalion cleared the high ground in front of Lixing, overcoming several enemy strong points while doing so. The 3rd Battalion advance in the center was steady despite opposition by heavy machinegun fire. On the right flank the 2nd Battalion kept pace, advancing to Brandenbusch woods, from where it was to assault Grosbliederstroff to the east. During the night the road approaching this objective from the west was swept of mines.

Pfc Clarence Bentley's Co. H machine-gun squad was assigned to support G Company in its predawn attack on Wingertsknopf. After the objective had been secured, the fog in which the assault had been carried out thinned sufficiently for the enemy to spot the American force on the high ground. For the next several days, the company endured a succession of counterattacks.

During these attacks Clarence distinguished himself by taking a water-cooled machine gun off its tripod mount, cradling it in his left arm, and using the gun so effectively as to make it a decisive factor in the repulse of the most dangerous assault. He was awarded the Silver Star for this action.

Early the next morning, February 18, the assault battalions of the 274th Infantry advanced to the northwest and crossed the Etzling-Behren road. After driving off several small enemy groups in firefights, the battalions threaded their way uphill into the thick forest blanketing Kreutzberg ridge, just south of Stiring Wendel. Around noon a German counterattack from Etzling was forced back by artillery and self-propelled gunfire.

"Near Etzling, the mines were thick and our supporting tanks couldn't move up to support our pinned-down infantry. It was a job for the engineers, and teams of the 270th Engineer Battalion moved in under enemy fire. Pfc. Deno A. Gaffi yelled to our waiting tankers. 'There's your path!' as he lifted the last mine."

An ENEMY PRESSURE, however, was maintained throughout the afternoon as a force of about 12 tanks, making repeated sorties along the road south of Etzling, posed a constant threat to the 274th's 2nd Battalion on the right flank of the regiment. Meanwhile well directed German artillery fire was a continuing problem.

As the 2nd Battalion resumed its attack into Kerbach begun the day before, Pfc. Hy Schorr, Co. H, 274th, was at his HMG position in a house from where he was firing into the center of town. During a lull, he was watching an E. Co. mortar section sergeant nearby when the noncom fell to the ground. "Suddenly white smoke seemed to shoot from his body and he began pulling at his belt. In seconds the grenade exploded. S/Sgt. William E. Lehman was awarded the DSC posthumously for deliberately falling on a live grenade to protect the lives of his mortarmen," Hy recounts.

Late in the afternoon the 274th's attack was halted while assault units reestablished contact with each other. Now the 2nd Battalion's concern about the threat posed by the enemy force holding Etzling was eased when the 275th's 3rd Battalion took that village.

Early that morning the 275th Infantry on the Division right flank had resumed its attack. First Battalion elements entered Lixing and worked their way through the town house by house until it was cleared. Some troops advanced from Lixing toward Etzling, cautiously picking their way through Schuhmine fields.

T.Sgt. A. W. Rorabaugh, Co. C., 275th remembers: "When the big push started, we swept around to the right of Lixing, avoiding the numerous schuhmines which had been exposed by the recent thaw of the snow. We had moved up into the Hartwald and started clearing it when the machine gun opened fire, killing S/Sgt. Fran Hetzel, Pfc. Louis Paschal, and Pvt. Alfred Casey.

"Leonard and I crawled around to the right while Alfred Mejia went left, and we caught the enemy gun in a cross-fire from our BAR's. After we had poured a lot of fire into their position, the Krauts signaled that they wanted to give up. When they came out, one of our men wanted to shoot them, but someone-not I - stopped him, and they were passed to the rear. "

In what was probably the same action, John Kayat-known as "our Indian" by his Co. C companions-is remembered to have advanced through the Hartwald while firing a light machine gun "wide open" from the hip.

IN THE REGIMENT'S CENTER the 3rd Battalion moved north of Lixing to approach Etzling from the east, shortly after noon. After sending patrols forward to check the approaches to the village, the Battalion attacked and took Etzling. In this action, lasting just an hour, 64 prisoners were taken.

First Lt. Ted Heck, 3rd Bn S-2, 275th, explains: "The taking of Etzling by K Company was much facilitated by a TOT artillery barrage which took much of the fight out of the enemy garrison. Clearing of houses was well under way when I came up from the rear to find out about the situation. Soon I was approached and informed by a French resident that the cellar oj' his house nearby remained occupied by 10 German soldiers. I was not much convinced that the Frenchman's unwelcome guests would be as docile as he described them; still I drew my pistol and stormed into the cellar. But as he predicted, the Germans meekly dropped their burp guns and rifles and filed out of the house."

The 275th's 3rd Battalion then moved out of Etzling and hastily dug in on the lower slopes of the height Pfaffenberg. Farther east the 2nd Battalion had pushed into Grosbliederstroff. By mid-morning the German defenders had been forced back to the northern end of the town. The Battalion's attack was continued, troubled by artillery and mortar fire from the other side of the Saar River. Finally the last German strongpoint in the town fell in a sharp firefight.

On the divisional left flank, the 276th still confronted the key defenses around Oeting. During the night it had cleared the mines from the road into that village. Then the Regiment resumed its attack on February 18. By early afternoon Oeting had been taken and a small enemy infantry-tank counterattack was repelled. Afterwards the Regiment turned its front to the northwest toward Forbach.

In its path rose three hills covered by the thick woods of Kleinwaeldchen. The westernmost of the three hills rose sharply from the forest to afford a panoramic view of Forbach to the north and visibility to the south as far as Oeting. On its summit stood a redstone castle, the Schlossberg. The commanding observation given to the side that held it made the capture of the Schlossberg the obvious prerequisite to the taking of Forbach.

By nightfall on the 18th two of the three hills in the Kleinwaeldchen had been overrun. The next morning Co. I advanced cautiously toward the Schlossberg. Surprisingly, no opposing enemy fire was encountered and, when the attackers scaled the outer walls, they found the castle deserted. Almost immediately heavy artillery and mortar fire began falling in the area. Between barrages the troops dug in around the buildings.

At 7:20 p.m. an enemy battery of 88mm guns began shelling the castle with great accuracy. Under this covering fire, German patrols crept up to the outer perimeter of the company's defenses and cut its telephone wire. At 8:40 p.m. the enemy artillery barrage was briefly intensified. Then as it was lifted, German infantrymen began rushing the castle from three sides, screaming wildly. Despite Co. I's active resistance with rifle fire, the enemy advance reached to within yards of the castle.

When he judged that the attacking Krauts were sufficiently close, the Co. I commander Capt. Herbert J. Andrews had his men called from their firing positions to shelter inside the castle walls and requested defensive artillery and mortar fire. Thirty-five dead Germans were found on the hill around the castle the next morning.

The shelling that came in response-81mm mortar fire of Co. M. and 105mm howitzer fire of the 884th Field Artillery-drove the enemy back. The vital Schlossberg position remained in American hands.

Supported by the 274th's 3rd Battalion, the 276th assault in Forbach began late the same afternoon, February 19. The road from Saarbruecken to Forbach, the Metz Highway, was to be interdicted by attack aircraft. The 276th's 1st Battalion and elements of the 3rd B n. 274th were the first units to penetrate into the city in

its southeast section. The enemy opened up with machine-gun and artillery fire on the advancing skirmishers after they had penetrated through the first two blocks. When the advance was thus slowed, 3rd Bn, 276th less Co. 1, descended from the Kleinwaeldchen and joined in the house-to-house fighting. The attack continued until shortly after nightfall.

In its "Report of Operations" for February 19, the Seventh Army G-3 staff evidently found nothing noteworthy in 274th activities. However, there was a dramatic event involving the regimental commander that day. Reconnoitering the heavily wooded, rough terrain on Kreutzberg Ridge, Col. Sam Conley and his party including Maj. Buford Boyd, 2nd Bn. CO, came fact to face with a trench full of enemy infantry. Conley and his party seemed trapped when the enemy opened fire. But then the colonel made a run for it to get help and got out amid a hail of enemy automatic weapons. Lt. Fred Cassidy was with one of his Co. G rifle platoons when it received a radio message of the command group's predicament. Running forward to investigate, Cassidy ran into Conley going the opposite way. After a brief discussion, Cassidy fetched the same platoon, found a supporting tank, climbed on its back, and directed his ad hoc task force through tangled woods, over barbed wire and to the rescue. After a brief, hot fight 50 Kraut prisoners were taken.

DAYBREAK on February 20 was attended by drizzling rain and fog, restricting tank movement to roads and making displacement of artillery difficult. The 70th Reconnaissance Troop in its patrolling concentrated on the eastern flank, where the advance of the adjacent 63rd Division had lagged behind that of the 275th Infantry across the Sarre River. The 275th's 1st and 2nd battalions advanced rapidly against light resistance, capturing the villages of Zinzing, Hesseling, and Alsting.

T/Sgt. Rorabaugh: "After Alsting was cleared on the 20th, we immediately pushed on into the woods beyond and ran into stiff resistance. We cleared out some pillboxes and took some prisoners. Among them was a medic wearing a white over-vest with its big red cross. He did a great job administering first aid to wounded men from both sides. I remember a German officer had been shot between the eyes while looking through his binoculars. We used the fit prisoners as litter bearers."

Sgt. Lee Miller, Co. D, 275th: "We had a fine gun position south of Zinzing. On the first night of preparing it we had to lie in snow as we filled sandbags; then before dawn we put the bags in the hole we'd excavated and camouflaged everything with snow before withdrawing. After a couple of nights working like this we had a bunker with a 4"-by-4" timber roof covered by several layers of frozen dirt. The day before the jump-off the weather thawed, and the bags sagged under the weight of the roof, making our position unusable. We had to rebuild the whole thing."

After a small counterattack east of Zinzing was dispersed, the two 275th battalions fanned out into the wooded areas to the north and east. However, on their left the 3rd Battalion's attempts to drive the enemy off the height Pfaffenberg were initially unsuccessful.

Co. I, 275th "Record of Events": "In the afternoon the Company attacked the high ground north of Etzling and took it with fixed bayonets. Casualties were not so light due to our own artillery and enemy mortars, artillery, and snipers. After digging in at a position looking down the throats of enemy in Spicheren, the Company threw back a counterattack. Our artillery continues to give the Heinies hell. S/Sgt. Fulcher was killed and 12 wounded were evacuated. Three men were wounded but not evacuated. " (Note: There is a striking difference in the two preceding accounts of the same action-a not unusual discrepancy in wartime records.)

Lt. Ted Heck: "A few days before, I had taken a flight over the front lines in a Divarry liaison plane-part of a program to familiarize S-2 personnel with the terrain and front-line troop dispositions. On the day of the attack on Pfaffenberg, I suggested to my battalion commander that I again fly over the action and radio down information on enemy troop deployments affecting the Battalion's assault. Given the okay, I and my pilot were drawing fire a thousand feet above the action when the assault began. Our pinpointing of enemy strongpoints was given credit in the success of the attack and for the lightness of casualties taken. "

Lt. Lawrence DuBose, Co. L, 275th: "The Company's advance took it across several trenches and a tank-trap ditch. There was some 88 shelling but no one was hit. Unfortunately we became involved in a firefight in the wet and fog with our K company; Sgt Bridges was seriously wounded and several others received flesh wounds. Except for getting wet, nothing was accomplished, and we withdrew to Etzling in the afternoon. (Note: DuBose's recollection of the clash between two friendly companies is more consistent with G-3 account of the 3rd Bn assault on Pfaffenberg.)

In Forbach the slow, systematic reduction of the city continued. Assaulting troops of the 1st and 3rd Battalions, 276th Infantry, advanced along the streets toward the railroad on the northwestern edge of town forcing the enemy back house by house and block by block. When the enemy was forced to abandon any defensive position, his artillery and mortars pounded the area just given up heavily with mortars and artillery.

At this time the German 347th Infantry Division forces defending Forbach were receiving local Volkssturm replacements and an additional 300 infantrymen from the 719th Infantry Division, which was defending a nearby sector against the American Third Army.

"70th Division Story": "The Simon Mine and Factory at Forbach was surrounded by a deep anti-tank ditch and a 7 -foot wall surmounted with iron spikes laced with barbed wire. In a charge to penetrate the compound by a 3rd Battalion rifle platoon, only one man reached the wall. Crawling through a hole, he was advancing beyond the wall when he was hit. S/Sgt. Joseph Kohn, a medic with the platoon, saw the man fall. Kohn advanced through enemy fire across the open ground and through the wall to reach the man and carry him to safety. Kohn was awarded the Silver Star and received a battlefield commission."

Silver Star citation for Pfc. Willie J. Daigle, Co. E, 276th: "As the scout for the squad spearheading an attack on strong enemy positions, Sergeant (then Pfc.) Daigle skillfully maneuvered under enemy fire and cut through three rows of barbed wire entanglements to open gaps through which the assault teams gained entrance to Forbach. Later he deliberately exposed himself to engage an enemy sniper in a firefight to enable medics in crossing a street exposed to the sniper's fire and in evacuating several casualties from there."

Meanwhile, 274th units operating just east of Forbach worked their way to within a short distance of the Forbach-Sarrbruecken road (Metz Highway) and other 274th troops swept northeast to high ground between Spicheren and Stiring Wendel. Spicheren Heights north of Spicheren was to become an area of particularly bitter German resistance.

Spicheren, Forbach: "Take them!" is the 70th Order

THE 70TH DIVISION Operations Instruction No. 7 directing the actions to be taken by its three regiments on Feb. 21 stated in part: "274th Inf-Continue attack early morning of 21 Feb 1945. Capture SPICHEREN. Seize remainder of initial regimental objective. Be prepared to resume attack NW. I Co and 1/2 M Co 275 Inf revert control 275 Inf after capture SPICHEREN. 275 Inf-Continue to push attack and seize final objective. 276 Inf-Resume attack at daylight and drive enemy from FORBACH. Be prepared to resume attack NW. " At 6:30 that morning the Division G-3 reported to G-3, XV Corps the 70th's current rifle company positions (see map). Unreported were the positions of Co. K, 274th, Co. I 275th (detached), and Co. G, 276th (detached).

The weather cleared that morning. Pressure applied by the 274th Infantry from positions north and northwest of Spicheren presently drove the enemy garrison from the village.

Co. I, 275th, "Record of Events." I Company continues to hold positions overlooking Spicheren while intermittent sniper fire is exchanged and our mortars and artillery pound the enemy unmercifully. About 1400, 1st Lt. Donahue takes a 6-man patrol into Spicheren and takes the town over, capturing about 25 prisoners. Then 274th troops move in, but we damn well know who took Spicheren. " (Note: Co. I, 275th was attached to the 274th at this time; regardless of what company's men took Spicheren, it was officially the 274th's booty!)

On a cold morning 1st Lt. John J. Passanisi and Pvt. Paul F. Walker were on a mission in Spicheren to remove wounded. Walking down the main street, they were narrowly missed by an incoming 88 shell which impacted only 10 feet away but failed to detonate. However, Walker's escape was only temporary, and he was killed on March 15 while going to aid a wounded Co. A, 274th rifleman near Forbach.

Further east the 1st Battalion of the 275th advanced northward along the Saar and occupied the wooded high ground overlooking the eastern part of Saarbruecken. However, two strong enemy counterattacks forced forward elements back over a half mile to the middle of the woods (Stiftswald). The enemy drive was finally halted by the combined firing of infantry, artillery, tanks and tank destroyers.

Pvt. W. W. Johnson had been assigned as a replacement to Co. A, 275th only a couple of days before he accompanied his rifle platoon in the two-battalion advance beyond Zinzing. The platoon had been pinned down in a firefight in the initial advance, and after nightfall the platoon sergeant discovered that "Johnny," the bazooka-man, for whom Johnson was ammo bearer, had left his bazooka far behind where the platoon had been pinned down. After chewing out Johnny, the sergeant instructed Johnson to leave the now useless bazooka rounds behind as the platoon continued its advance in the darkness through thick woods toward its objective-an enemy bunker.

The next morning, Feb. 21, an assault team from the platoon advanced on the objective, Johnson being left behind in a foxhole to cover one flank of the attacking group. The attack quickly ran into heavy resistance, and Johnson then engaged an enemy tank-infantry force threatening to encircle the assault team.

Wounded several times in what turned out to be a full-scale enemy counterattack, Johnson was captured and treated by an enemy medic. He was liberated when the 1st Battalion advanced again after blunting the German thrust. While being evacuated to the rear, Johnson recognized two of his litter bearers as Ray Ireland and Sam Ganns, with whom he had taken basic training a few short months before and whom he had last seen in the replacement depot just before being assigned to the 275th. Ireland, Ganns, and Johnny are the only names Johnson remembers from his brief experience with his infantry regiment.

FROM SILVER STAR CITATION, Pvt. William B. Trotter--Co. B, 275th: "On 21 February at 1600 hours in the vicinity of Saarbruecken, a counterattacking enemy force threatened to overrun his company's position. Pvt. Trotter rushed forward alone in the face of intense machine gun and small arms fire to halt the German drive. Firing short bursts from his automatic rifle, Trotter advanced to within 15 yards of the enemy group, killing four and capturing eight Germans. "

On the left of the 1st Battalion, the 275th 3rd Battalion also advanced up the slope toward the final objective. It too found the going difficult.

Co. K, 275th "Kings Men": "Again on the 21st, the company moved out in the attack along the ridge to the right flank. Overcoming fierce enemy resistence, we were able to take the high ground beyond the town (Spicheren?). The strain of four days continuous attack was bringing men to the verge of exhaustion. T/4 Buncic received a wound but refused to go back to the aid station for treatment. Then he was killed by shellfire in the Pfaffenwald; the time was 1500. Pfc.s Labie, Hein, Mitchell, Delarcipiet, Moore, Deamicis, Pettit, Meinike, Mureeler, and Ammons and Sgt. Wood were wounded and evacuated that day."

T/Sgt. Richard Becker, Co. L. 275th, recalls: "Leading the battalion's attack, L Company took 39 casualties, including the company commander and two other officers, when it was hit by three counterattacking assault guns supported by infantry. A captured German NCO who spoke good English was deceived into believing he could be sent to prison camp in Texas if his captors were pleased with him. Accordingly, he revealed that the company position would be hit that evening by a 300-man force.

The Bn S-3, Capt. Garnet Oliver, arrived to take over the company and immediately moved what was left of the unit-about 50 men-to new positions. Then Oliver, taking the place of the missing artillery FO, plotted defensive fires to include the company's position just abandoned and zeroed it in. Sure enough, the enemy attack came just after dark, just as predicted. It was stopped cold and the attacking force was badly mauled by a thunderous time-on-target barrage."

The 3rd Bn. commander, Maj. John M. Duffie, was captured with two accompanying NCO's on February 21. While reconnoitering out in front of the battalion, the small party was surprised by the sudden enemy counterattack. After the war Duffie recalled that his German captors were anxious to find out what had happened to Task Force Herren, which had suddenly disappeared from the American order of battle. (It was now the 70th, again.)

Lt. Lawrence DuBose, Co. L, 275th, recounts: "We started our advance well before dawn on a pitch-black night in which you had to keep close enough to touch the man ahead in order to maintain contact. At dawn we captured several Germans who surrendered readily. Then we ran into an SP 88 and after a 'staredown' during which it fired one shot at us, it withdrew.

Moving through some woods, I took a rifle bullet in the stomach, and a medic gave me some morphine tablets to chew on-but no water. Sgt. Rankin picked up my maps and ammo saying I wouldn't need them anymore. Then the company was withdrawn, and I was left with my runner, Vernon Medford, and a German prisoner. After a time, two men from the company on our left came up, and these two, plus Medford and the prisoner, got me back to the aid station on an improvised litter. They were joined by one of my men, Murray, who insisted on seeing that I got back to the aid station. "

FROM THE OTHER SIDE of the battle, a German 347th Infantry Division monograph reported: "The American attack succeeded in penetrating our positions north of Spicheren and in occupying Hill 341 (Gifertwald). Immediate counterattacks by elements of the 36th Infantry succeeded in recovering only the north and northeast slopes of Hill 341. Similarly, the 6th SS Mountain Division's Reconnaissance Battalion, attached to the 347th Division, counterattacked toward the high ground one kilometer north of Spicheren, but could reach and hold only the northern slope. However, the following night (February 22) this battalion was withdrawn and reverted to its own division."

The brief appearance here by an element of an earlier Vosges Mountains adversary of Task Force Herren, the 6th SS Mountain, seems not to have been detected by our intelligence-it is not found in the 70th G-2 lists of enemy units in contact.

The situation at nightfall on the 21st: The 276th had advanced its positions to control the southeast third of Forbach; the 274th had established two roadblocks on the ForbachSaarbruecken road (Metz Highway) northeast of Forbach; and the 275th had regrouped its forces on the lower slopes of its final objective. The count of POW's taken that day was 249, 100 of them having been taken in Forbach. During the night enemy shelling, mainly 88mm and 105mm caliber, was continuous.

Sgt. Ray Mienheartt, Co. E, 276th was in a foxhole on the side of the hill under the tower in Forbach. From this position he could see well into the city, looking past the cave serving as the Co. E command post. In the early morning he heard the sound of hobnailed boots coming down at the foot of the hill and soon caught sight of a man in the moonlight. Too far away to challenge, Mienheartt took aim with his carbine but held his fire, hoping that someone closer would take the booted man prisoner. Then he realized that the man in his sights had turned and was withdrawing. Reluctantly, Mienheartt started to squeeze the trigger when he heard the welcome "Halt!" Later he learned that the man he had come so close to shooting was a Russian who had escaped from a slave-labor camp intent on warning the Americans of the camp location.

Walter C. Cox, Co. E, 274th, remembers that on the drive into Stiring Wendel his company and Co. C under Ist Lt. George Blanchard, formed a perimeter defense near the Metz Highway to consolidate the ground gained after a long day of exhausting fighting. A short time later Cox was awakened at the combined CP for the two companies by a messenger who informed him that everyone was asleep. Everyone was quickly awakened and thanks were given that the Krauts hadn't found out the situation in the perimeter before the messenger did.

"Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes": On the 21st, I Company was pushed forward from reserve to establish an outpost on the edge of Stiring Wendel and took several casualties, all wounded, to mortar fire during the approach march. Taken under automatic weapons fire by the enemy, the company continued its advance by fire and movement and the objective was taken. Firing positions were found from which to meet any enemy counteraction.

Presently a German soldier was spotted approaching and was nearly fired on before being recognized as a medic. In his approach he checked several Kraut bodies, continuing on after each check apparently convinced him that the man was dead. Having checked the last body before coming to Co. I-held buildings, the medic gave himself up.

On Feb. 22, the enemy defense of Forbach remained active. Much of the defense was conducted from strong points, many of them automatic weapons emplacements in fortified basements. The German defenders fought tenaciously and surrendered only when their position became surrounded. At 11:30 that morning the 276th's S-3 was on the telephone speaking to a Division G-3 staff officer about the regiment's progress: "E Co. is moving into Blocks `K' and `M.' L Co. is half way through Block `10' and running into heavy MG, small arms and bazooka fire. K Co. is in Block `I l' and is running into automatic and rifle fire. K Co. and L Co. are maneuvering with tanks. A Co. is at Phase Line 'I.' C Co. and F Co.-no change, (they are) moving across Phase Line 'I' under heavy artillery fire and direct fire from tanks. I Co. is in battalion reserve and is maintaining contact between E and L companies. We are hitting the counterattack assembly area with artillery."

N THE AFTERNOON, attack aircraft of the XII Tactical Air Command supported the 276th Infantry's advance by bombing and strafing the enemy-held part of town. At the end of the day, the regiment paused to consolidate its gains and reorganize. In its advance the 276th had reached the railroad embankment which cuts through the northern end of the town.

"70th Division Story": Sgt. William P. Henry, Co. F, 276th was posthumously awarded the Silver and Bronze Star medals. The Silver Star was awarded for his clearing of houses beyond the Forbach underpass. Several days before he had gone alone into some houses and killed two Germans while capturing two others. Later, he worked his way through an enemy-held section of Forbach to reestablish contact with his squad, also engaged in house-clearing.

In the Division center the 274th took an important enemy defensive complex with pillboxes and bunkers between Spicheren and Stiring Wendel. At 10:52 a.m. the 274th's S-3 Sergeant, Shultz, reported to G-3 on the attack's progress: "1st Bn. moving forward slowly. (We have) no positions yet. 2nd Bn is moving up on the initial objective where the finger of the (Spicheren-Stiring Wendel) road goes up about three-quarters of the way. They received some bursts of enemy artillery there this morning. Pretty bad. A few casualties. I can't give you a position of 1st Bn. because our line is out to them." Schultz then provided the coordinates of 1st Bn.'s last known location about 500 yards northwest of Spicheren. From there the Regiment confronted Spicheren Heights.

Co. C, 275th "Bulletin," (April '45): The German counterattack hit C Company positions, and an advancing tank threatened to break through. From his foxhole, Pvt. Sampson J. Stephens moved toward it with a bazooka and, from a range of 15 yards, disabled it with his first round. Stephens continued to fight in this same aggressive fashion until he was killed on Feb. 25. He received the Division's first Distinguished Service Cross, posthumously.

Recollection of 2nd Lt. Harry Durkee, Co. C, 275th: "C Company continues that attack begun several days before at Alsting. Dusk begins to fall and Jerry tanks come through the forest. There's my bazooka man, but where is his ammunition? The precious bag was left behind in the confusion of the previous night! Jerry foot soldiers are right behind the tanks. Some hand-to-hand fighting ensues but most of our men are taken prisoner quickly in the unequal situation. Our few survivors remain where they have hidden while the enemy infantry and tanks with POW's riding pull back. Then we dig in, an understrength platoon-all that remains of C Company."

Recollection of Pfc. Hy Schorr, Co. H, 274th: "My MG section was set up on a sharp rise in a woods on Spicheren Heights. That night I was awakened by Pfc. Harold L. Ward whispering that he had detected movement to our front. He threw a grenade while I scanned to see what was happening. Spotting several figures, I fired and hit one. Then our MG's opened fire raking from left to right and we heard screams and groans. By early dawn we could see the ground to the front littered with wounded and dead Germans, one with a machine gun just a few yards away. Right after Ward left my hole to fetch more ammo, two shots cracked and he fell. I dragged him back to the foxhole and dressed his wounds, but he was too badly wounded to survive."

Still on February 22, The 275th, on the Division right, cleared the eastern two-thirds of its final objective and began preparing strong defensive positions there. That night a German attack with tanks was thrown back by doughboys using bazookas and rifle grenades.

A Day of War: February 23, 1945

THE DIVISION directive for operations beginning February 23 (Ops Ins No. 9): "274th Inf-Hold SPICHEREN GAP at all costs, assist the 275th Inf in the capture of GIFERTWALD woods, be prepared to attack STIRING WENDEL on order; 275th InfDrive enemy from GIFTERWALD, organize and defend final objective. . . ." The order also directed the 276th to continue clearing Forbach. (Note: The Gifertwald blankets something more than half of Spicheren Heights from its eastern end.)

During the first hours of the 23rd, the Division G-3 office was, as usual, making telephone contacts with front-line units to keep up to date on the operations picture. The night had been fairly quiet. A report from the 274th noted that there had been the usual enemy vehicular traffic; word of it had been sent to the 882nd artillerymen, who fired on the road and called for additional shelling by another artillery battalion. The 276th reported that a friendly engineer party working on an anti-tank ditch had been fired on by a 276th rifle company. The riflemen had been in a remote area to maintain contact with the 101st Cavalry Group, on the Division left flank. The engineer party had entered the area and gone to work without notifying the rifle unit of their presence.

Then the G-3 received word from the 275th that a POW captured that night had said an enemy attack would hit in the regiment's sector in the morning. The warning would have been too late for Lee Miller whose Co.D HMG position was probably under attack while the German prisoner was predicting one in the same area to take place some hours later.

Lee Miller, Co.D, 275th, recollects: "The night of February 22-23 our position was in the woods, on the left side of a trail being covered by a 57mm. anti-tank gun. T/Sgt. Anthony P. Van de Wege was dug in a few feet away, and there were some riflemen to our right front. Then came a lot of shooting and hollering and a BAR-man came running back. He said the rest of his outfit had been wiped out by a tank and he was the only survivor. He was worried about being shot for desertion. A Kraut tank approached, firing its big gun, and our 57 bounced several rounds off before stopping the tank about 75 feet with a broken track. We heard a lot of talking in German-they seemed to be working on the track. " Ordered not to fire and give his gun position away, Miller was wounded after prolonged suspense when firing again broke out. An enemy soldier, seemingly scouting around, crawled right up to Miller's gun position and was shot by Van de Wege. Miller remembers that 2nd Lt. Robert McDaniel was killed at the anti-tank gun during its lengthy engagement with the enemy tank.

At 8:45 a. m. back at the Division operations center, G-3 was called by Capt. Severance, 275th S-3, who reported on the progress of his regiment's attack resumed that morning. "The situation on the right is the same stuff (enemy tanks) they beat off last night; they came back 15 minutes ago. We don't know what's happening right now." Major Brewer, the G-3 officer, asked: "Is that C Company they're hitting?" Severance: "They are hitting C Company again. The report doesn't say how many infantrymen. There are two tanks."

The next two personal accounts relate to a continuing action that started with one fight during the night of February 22 and then another the next day.

Pfc. Kern Dibble, Co. C, 275th remembers: "Attacking the hill above Saarbruecken after dark, the Company advanced up a path in single file, when shouting in German was heard. I yelled for everyone to get off the path and we hit the ground just as an enemy gun opened fire at close range. I called for ammo for my LMG; getting no response, I crawled around feeling ahead of me and found my ammo bearer, Bill Ho, dead. He was a recent replacement."

2nd Lt. Harry Durkee, Co. C, 275th, adds to the account:

"The enemy seemed to be pulling back, and C Company was ordered to press forward to reestablish contact. The Jerries apparently allowed us to march through their line then opened fire once we were behind them. The night fighting was much confusion and we took still more casualties. Into daylight we kept going. I recall being hesitant about our route; then I saw Major Malloy, our new battalion CO, and he pushed me on. Bless his courage and confidence! I was in need of that at the time, especially amid the falling artillery. I forgave his impoliteness due to the circumstances."

It had been still dark, at 6:45 a.m., when the G-3's office received the first report of action. Pvt. Murphy, of the 276th S-3 staff, said that Co. F (on the right flank of the solid regimental front) had jumped off to resume the attack in Forbach 40 minutes before. At 7:50, Capt. Severance, 275th S-3, reported that his 3rd Battalion had jumped off in its attack at "0740." Asked by the G-3 officer the direction taken by the attacking battalion, Severance responded tartly: "It is the one way to go and that is north and northwest." Then at 8:15, the 274th's Lt. Stolz reported: "1st Battalion, 274th established contact with the 3rd Battalion, 275th at 0803. They have the Jerries sacked up in a pocket in that vicinity, strength and coordinates unknown."

On the 70th Division's right, across the Saar River, the 63rd Division was planning to resume its northward attack as part of the Corps offensive the next day and was making preparations. Its G-3 called the 70th G-3 office to say that he had reports of much enemy activity in Buebingen, a town in the path of the 63rd's intended attack. He wanted to call for an air strike against the town. Since the proposed target town was adjacent to the 70th sector, he asked about objections to the strike. After checking with the 275th, Major Brewer called the 63rd back and indicated there were no objections, asking only to be advised of the air strike's timing.

THE DAY BEFORE, a gap of some 600 yards had developed between the 274th and 275th in Gifertwald. As the 274th's A and F companies had advanced in an oblique movement northeastward, they crossed into the 275th's sector. Meanwhile the 275th's 3rd Battalion's westward advance to meet with the 274th had been blocked by an enemy-defended antitank ditch and terrain obstacles, and this left the western part of the 275th's objective still in enemy hands. A large pocket of enemy troops had been discovered in the gap, and a pinching-together of the two regiments' forces had almost, but not entirely, closed the gap, the 274th troops taking about 100 prisoners in the process.

From "Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes": The 1st Bn. attack on Spicheren Heights went off on schedule, and Lt. Davis' Fox Company (attached) surprised an enemy battalion as it was deploying for a counterblow and captured or killed nearly the entire outfit. Then the going got rough. Sgt. Ramon Fajardo said: ''We pushed forward in the face of heavy machine-gun and artillery fire. Pfc. Donald Eberle was hit by shell fragments but refused to go to the rear. He kept advancing, firing his bazooka at enemy emplacements. He hadn't gone far when another round came in. It was a direct hit, and he was blown to bits. At about the same time, P/c. Don Huskey was killed by machine-gun fire. Then Sgts. Jim Wright and Charles Dempsey were wounded by shrapnel. Casualties were heavy, but we drove steadily onward."

The progress of this attack on the Gifertwald had been closely watched by Gen. Herren as he kept pace with the 274th's advance and periodically contacted his operations center giving it instructions to be passed to the 275th on the other side of the gap.

On the morning of the 23rd, Col. Conley was already concerned about the possibility of having to leave his 274th assault (A and F) companies holding Spicheren Heights when he undertook his next orders-to take Stiring Wendel. He had the impression that the 275th expected the 274th would continue to hold what it had taken of the Gifertwald until further notice, and he had obtained the same view from Gen. Barnett. Conley called up the G-3 staff and expressed his concerns.

However, the pocket of enemy resistance in the Gifertwald gap still remained to be completely subdued; this continued to preoccupy the 274th and 275th rifle companies that were dealing with the problem. Nevertheless, the subject of the relief of 274th troops in the Gifertwald kept recurring in G-3 telephone contacts with the 274th and 275th until the afternoon. Then the Germans made several counterattacks in the Gifeerwald area, some tank-supported. Staff officers of both regiments called G-3. One asked about obtaining self-propelled tank destroyers, large enough to kill German Mark VI "Tiger" tanks, which had been identified in the counterattacks. The other asked about obtaining a company of tanks to fight the German armor with. G-3 responded that the TD's couldn't be obtained for a week but was able to arrange quickly for the requested tanks. Late in the afternoon, the question of relief of 274th companies in the Gifertwald was settled when Col. Townsend, the G-3, notified both regiments as follows: "The Division Commander directs that those elements of the 274th Infantry now in the 275th area will remain there until relieved on the Division Commander's order." As for the pocket of enemy in the Gifertwald, the last mention of this was at 5:10 p.m. when Gen. Rodes called in and asked G-3's Maj. Bremer: " Well, has it been a bad day or a good one? Did they ever close the gap?" Bremer: "Yes, sir. They did. But (enemy) armor keeps infiltrating up there."

Over on the left there had been no report on the progress of the 276th attack since jumping off. Then, at noon, Sgt. Yandell of the S-3 section reported that most of the Regiment was holding along Phase Line 2 (the railroad tracks in Forbach) while it mopped up pockets of resistance bypassed earlier. Meanwhile, Co. F on the right flank had advanced northeast to reach the regimental boundary. Resistance was described (incompletely, it seems) as sniping and machine-gun fire.

Ray Mienheartt, Co. E, 276th remembers that Phil Goan, Sgt. Casey Gondek, and he were moving along a wall across the street from a large church in Forbach when another volley of Nebelwerfer "screaming meemies" loudly sounded their approach. Mienheartt looked up and spotted what looked like a GI steel helmet coming in over the church and yelled a warning a split second before the projectile bounced off the top of the wall right above Gondek and exploded. Gondek was buried under masonry from the wall, and his two shaken companions hastily cleared huge chunks of rock to free him and load him in a medical jeep which arrived. A viewing afterward of the debris he and Goan had moved to uncover Gondek caused Mienheartt to marvel at the superhuman task they had performed. The sergeant was back on the job in a few days.

Forbach Falls 1945

ON MARCH 1, the three regiments were disposed with the 276th 3rd and 1st battalions approaching the railroad embankment in the northwest corner of Forbach, Co. G in regimental reserve and Cos. E and F still attached to the 274th. In the center, the 274th had its 3rd and 2nd battalions on the south edge of Stiring-Wendel; 1st Battalion was on the right, and Co. E and Cos. E and F/276th were in reserve. The 275th had its 3rd battalion and Co. A/274 on the left in the Gifertwald, 1st battalion on the right front in the Pfaffenwald, and 2nd battalion covering the Division's right flank along the Saar River.

Immediate tasks were: 276th-complete the clearing of Forbach; 274th-take StiringWendel; 275th-defend its portion of the Division objective.

Lawrence Southard, Co. G, 275th recollects: "Gen. Herren paid a surprise visit to G Cos. forward positions early one morning, walking up toward the crest of the high ground a few yards below which the foxholes of Lt. Paul McCoy's platoon were located. Near one of the foxholes, he stood looking down on the Siegfried Line. The occupant looked around and, seeing him, blurted out, 'Get down, you SOB, don't you know there are snipers out there!' Hitting the ground, the general crawled to the foxhole, thanked the soldier, and then disappeared, crawling back to the rear."

The enemy deployed a mixture of 347th VGD and 559th VGD elements against each of the regiments and held in reserve an odd collection of units, including the Assault Bn of First Army HQ. Battle Group of Zweibruecken Volksturm, 67th Mtn Rcn Bn, and 17th SS PGD Assault Gun Bn. Among the units identified by the 70th Div G-2 as being possibly available for commitment was the 6th SS Mtn Div, out of contact after last being identified in the nearby Bitche area.

The journal of Division G-2 records: "Four Yugoslav civilians who left Stiring-Wendel on March 1 were detained and interrogated by the IPW team. They reported seeing only seven German soldiers there and that civilian residents were complaining about U.S. artillery shooting up their town already abandoned by nearly all German forces." In view of the hard fighting that the 274th later encountered in Stiring-Wendel, it seems that this report could have resulted from an intentional deception.

The first two days of March were spent reorganizing, regrouping and patrolling. On the 2nd, in the only action noted for that day in the 70th Division Narrative History, E/276 dispersed enemy combat patrols which had attacked it near Kreutzberg Ridge in what turned out to be a farewell ceremony marking the end of its attachment to the 274th. Shortly, Co. E returned to its own regiment. Otherwise, enemy action was confined to sporadic mortar and artillery fire.

For the resumption of the attack on March 3, the Divarty field order indicated where enemy resistance was expected to be toughest. The 882nd, 883rd, and 884th were to provide direct support of their normal combat-team partner regiment; the 725th FA Bn was to reinforce the 882nd's fire support of the 274th's attack into Stiring-Wendel.

Recollections of Andy Davenport, C/882 FA: "Lt. Howard Peck was forward observer of a team including 'Red' Turner, radio operator, and Davenport as scout corporal. The morning of the attack into Stiring-Wendel, the team set up its OP in the woods overlooking the town. A telephone wire was run up the hill and the radio and the telephone remote control were placed in a two-man foxhole. Before 274th's attack, a Kraut counterattack started, and Peck requested fire on the enemy. However, due to the steep terrain, the incoming shells with their proximity fuses began going off right over Turner's and Davenport's foxhole. When we got our guns to ceasefire, we could hear Kraut skirmishers coming, firing short bursts to draw fire. We got out of there fast."

In the 276th's attack, the assault companies were I, K, A, C and an attached company of the French Lorraine Division. Their advance quickly covered all untaken ground before the railroad embankment and continued, on the left, along the roads from Forbach to the west, northwest and north. However, the underpass of the road to Im Bruch was a problem. Mines in the underpass and heavy enemy fire blocked Co. K and Co. A behind it, several supporting tanks being lost to the mines there. On the right, Co. C and the French company crossed the tracks but were halted by enemy resistance from the Nord Caserne. At dusk the 3rd Battalion advance to the west approached Marienau.

The G-2 journal says: "According to their major in charge, the French infantry attached to the 276th were under orders to send POW's to the French POW facility in Metz and not turn them over to 70th. He at last agreed to Division's questioning their POW's while under French guard but they were not to be evacuated in U.S. channels. One of their POW's was thought to have information on gun positions at the Simon Mine."

This complication with the French Ally was not isolated. Capt. Fred Cassidy recalls 274th orders not to use attached French troops in any combat action. In Stiring-Wendel they were used to handle the Allied POW's that flocked into that town.

AGAINST STIRING-WENDEL, the 274th advanced from Kreutzberg Ridge and Sangenwald, with 3rd, 2nd, and Ist battalions abreast. Less resistance was encountered in wooded approaches than through open areas or along roads and trails, stubbornly covered by enemy MG fire; during the day, mortar and artillery fire ranged from moderate to heavy. By late afternoon, 2nd Bn was fighting inside Stiring-Wendel, the other two battalions having taken Sophie to the south and reached the Metz Highway to the east of that town. From its sector, 275th fire supported the advance of the 274th.

Hy Schorr H/274, recollects: Advancing through the woods, his HMG squad came under heavy shellfire. The gunner, Pfc William E. Beldon, was evacuated. Then squad leader Sgt. Harold W. Kline was hit in the thigh, and though protesting, was evacuated. That left Al Vargo and Schorr the only survivors of the squad.

Col. George Barten, 2nd Bn, 275, reported that the OP of 2nd Bn, 275 on the Division right flank, overlooked the Saar River and German positions across it, since the Battalion's advance had outstripped that of the 63rd Division by a half mile. The 63rd assistant division commander visited this OP to plan his division's attack and later to observe it. Barten was skeptical when he heard of the 63rd plan to spearhead its attack with tanks. Later he and 63rd's general watched the attack. "We looked right up the flank of the assaulting force. I observed flashes around our tanks and thought they were firing. I was wrong. Within minutes the five lead tanks were hit by German fire, and the attack halted." Like the 70th's, the 63rd's assault of well-defended ridges rimming the German border was costly - it took two days of hard fighting for the 63rd to clear this objective.

On the 4th, the 276th jumped off at 9 a.m., the enemy resisting strongly, particularly at the underpass. The 2nd Battalion, brought up from reserve, advanced into Forbach Forest. Finally, blasting from Corps Artillery's big guns enabled Cos. K and A to advance beyond the underpass and approach the Nord Caserne. On the left Marienau was taken.

Supporting tanks finally got through the underpass and began blasting the German defenders from house after house. They were well protected by rifle fire from enemy attempts to fire Panzerfaust projectiles from windows. The slugging lasted all day, with the Germans grudgingly retreating to the northwest end of town. Just before dusk the 276th assault battalions pulled back to the embankment while an artillery barrage softened the enemy-held section, then advanced behind a rolling barrage to clear it.

THE 274TH ATTACKED at 6:30 a.m., the 1st Battalion entering the east end of Stiring-Wendel and 3rd Bn, the west side. The 2nd Bn reached the middle of town against resistance centering on elevating rotating pillboxes protected by mine fields and supported by continuous mortar and artillery fire. A low cloud ceiling hampered the attackers' use of air support.

On March 5 the clearing of Forbach was completed when 276th 1st Bn took Nord Caserne against light resistance. Reaching Im Bruch, 3rd Bn turned left and cleared the woods to the southwest. 2nd Bn's advance in Forbach Forest was stopped at the well defended embankment of a railroad spur line from the Simon Mine.

In Stiring-Wendel, 2nd Bn, 274 mopped up enemy strong points. In the early morning a mass of Allied POW's fleeing from their prison hospital was taken under fire by an enemy MG as they approached Stiring-Wendel along the Metz Highway - several were wounded. The 2nd Battalion spent the rest of the day feeding and providing for the evacuation of these men, mostly Russians, but also Czechs, Frenchmen, Poles and Yugoslavs. 3rd Battalion cleared Neue Glashutte on the Metz Highway, west of Stiring-Wendel.

S/Sgt. Malcolm Ruthven, C1274, wounded in the face as he directed his men in the mopping-up, just pitched a grenade into the cellar where the shot came from. That ended resistance there. After receiving medical treatment, Ruthven, peered with one eye from under the bulky bandage and commented to a companion: "Even with one eve, you still look uglier than me."

The 274th's Sgt. Martin Sviger, who spoke Yugoslav and French, was the busiest man in Stiring-Wendel. The newly liberated POW's were anxious to hear about news of the war. A Russian officer, just given a hasty briefing by Sviger, jumped on a packing case and relayed the news of victory after victory on both Western and Eastern fronts, each one greeted by loud cheers from his countrymen.

Early March 6, enemy infiltrating patrols got behind F/276 and cut if off, but prompt counteraction by Cos. E and G effected its relief. Enemy armor appeared and the fighting raged on until 12:30 p.m., when the 2nd Battalion's front opposed to the railroad embankment was finally restored. Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion moved up and extended the 2nd Battalion's front to the west. The 1st Battalion advanced further west in Forbach Forest against light resistance. After repelling enemy counterattacks in the late afternoon, the Regiment withdrew several hundred yards and dug in.

Capt. Roger L. Conarty halted his Co. L, 276th advance and crawled forward to scout the railroad embankment. When he returned to his company he radioed to Battalion his judgment that the embankment could not be taken. Soon the Regimental Commander called on the radio and, receiving the same report from Conarty, ordered him to advance his company or face court martial. Conarty respectfully refused, and the advance was postponed. The next morning the assistant division commander and regimental commander visited the Co. L position. After they reconnoitered and conferred, they ordered Conarty to keep his company where it was.

At 6:30 a.m. 3rd Bn, 274 with tank support attacked the Simon Mine and factory west of Stiring-Wendel and penetrated the minefield. It withdrew after testing the defenses and finding them formidable and in need of softening by bombardment.

LATE THAT NIGHT Division arranged for the bombing and shelling of enemy defenses opposing the 276th Regiment and 274th's 3rd Bn after these elements had been withdrawn. This was to be followed closely by the new advance of these units. However, the persisting low ceiling on March 7 prevented the aerial bombardment while the artillery concentrations fired were judged to be insufficient preparation for the infantry assault, which was postponed.

According to the G-3 journal: "Divarty fired a TOT concentration on enemy strong points. In the late afternoon a concentration was fired on the Simon Mine complex. During the day 73 missions were fired - a total of 901 rounds. "

A conference among corps, division, and concerned regimental commanders concluded that the infantry units which had been pulled back should hold their positions until intensive reconnaissance had been made of the enemy defenses. Orders were: Dig in. So the 70th Div reverted to the defensive by Corps order.

For several days there was a lull in the action. In a re-disposition, 276th 3rd Bn, 274th 2nd Bn and 275th Cos. I and A were withdrawn from the line and sent to locations in the rear (sec map). The 883rd FA experimented with flamethrower fluid as a filler for 105mm shells with unsatisfactory results. Division Artillery fired many successful missions.

A Mark VI Tiger tank was destroyed by six rounds of 725th's howitzers. The 270th Engineers were busy clearing mine fields, constructing defenses, rebuilding roads, and searching buildings for unexploded bombs. An intensive search was made after a time bomb was discovered in the Nord Caserne, where troops of the 276th were located.

Counterattack! But the 70th Repulses a Desperate Enemy

Having been forced back from this key defense line on February 23, the enemy reacted with a series of violent counterattacks over the next several days. The German 347th Division had home the brunt of the recent fighting, and its 36th Infantry on Spicheren Heights was in particularly bad shape even though it had received replacements diverted from the Division's other two regiments, which had been less heavily engaged. During the period, elements of the 2nd Mountain, 559th Volks Grenadier and 19th Volks Grenadier Divisions were fed into the battle to add their weight to the counterblows.

Trailblazer casualties, light during the first several days of the Saar offensive, but increasing sharply beginning on February 21, remained high. The impassive language of the Division Report of Operations for Feb. 24 was accurate enough in its reflection of units, events, times and locations. There was no room in such reports for the human drama attending these happenings:

"(1) 274th Inf: Co. F, 276th Inf atchd. Enemy counterattack from NW at 0830 consisting of infantry only. Enemy in small groups continued to harass troops in GIFERTWALD WOODS. Mop-up of woods continued during the day. At 1400 enemy counterattack from vie STIRING-WENDEL; no armor used. Contact regained with Co. E and enemy driven from woods. Co. F, 276th Inf. in regimental reserve.

"(2) 275th Inf: Enemy artillery fell in 3rd Bn area at 1030. 1st Bn received small counter-attack consisting of infantry and four tanks. All attacks repulsed. Positions on Division objective being consolidated and secured.

"(3) 276th Inf (less Co. F): Regiment holding positions along railroad tracks in FORBACH. Continued mopping up and patrolling streets. Cos. E and F relieved by elements of 1st and 3rd Bns. 2nd Bn (-Co. G and Co. F) assembled in COCHEREN. Harassing enemy artillery continued throughout the day."

The 274th's Col. Conley did not take lightly the counterattack in his area. He asked G-3 about getting back his troops tied up in the Gifertwaid in the 275th sector, pointing out that he didn't have a "damn thing to guard that hill." He noted that the enemy was behind his Co. E and judged that the Kreutzberg Ridge below Stiring-Wendel could be lost unless he received additional forces.

That the enemy was taking fearful casualties in its continuing counterattacks was indicated in a POW interrogation report obtained the next day and forwarded by the 274th S-2 to Division. The POW stated that the total strength of the 1st Battalion, 1126 VG Regiment, 559th VG Division had been reduced to 50-60 men and that it had 50 KIA's during the counter-attack of Feb. 24. According to a German unit history, the 559th had been committed to recapture the "Spicheren fortifications." The unit history noted further that, contrary to the recommendation of the CG, 347th Division (cited above), the first regiment of the 559th VG to have arrived in the area was committed immediately without waiting for the arrival of the entire division, the result being a piecemeal attack.

"Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes." "Sometime during the hours of darkness, the Krauts succeeded in moving up the draws undetected, and by daybreak they were ready to charge our foremost positions. Capt. Sisson's Easy Company (274th) bore the brunt of the attack. 'The Krauts were on top of us before we knew what happened,' recalls Sgt. Barrett. 'They went through the gaps in the woods, past the front line defenses, and headed for the mortar positions on top of the hill. Fighting raged at close quarters.' "

Sgt. Edward Kachursky, 274th Co. B., was hit four times in the German counterattack that overran his position on Kreutzberg Ridge. Motioned by his captors to come with them, Kachursky struggled to his feet, then fell, too weak to stand. A very young German medic gave him first aid, and Kachursky gave the boy his watch and some rations when the others left them alone. Then armed Germans reappeared, Kachursky judged, to finish off any wounded Americans. The young medic covered Kachursky with a blanket hiding his GI identity. Kachursky was liberated when the same ground was retaken by an American counter-attack, during which the young German medic was killed, his head blown off.

Co. B, 274th was digging in after a tough day's fighting when the enemy suddenly counter- attacked. Dropping their shovels and picking up their M-l's, Sgt. ElmoChappell and two of his buddies found the weapons, fouled with mud, wouldn't fire semi-automatically. Motioning his buddies to cover where they could load each round manually, Chappell took up an exposed position and fired each rifle as it was loaded and passed to him. He accounted for eight Germans, and the enemy attack was turned back.

The German attack that hit the 1st Bn, 275th, was not so easily repelled as the quoted Division report of operations seemed to indicate. It hit at 8:45 a.m. between Cos. A and C, and a request was made for tank support. Two of the four enemy tanks broke through, one through Co. C, which had been forced back 250 yards. It was not until 12:41 p.m. that the tanks were cleared from the Co.C area, and from the Co. A area not until later. Then both units moved up to their earlier positions. Several friendly tanks which had bogged down and had been abandoned in the Pfaffenwald were found to have been stripped by the enemy, gas and oil drained. General Barnett ordered the 270th Engineers to recover the tanks, but it was found that the engineers' winches weren't strong enough for the job. The 275th's Col. McAleer was concerned about keeping tank support for his infantrymen spread "as thin as they are." He had heard that a pull-back of his supporting tanks was intended and he objected. He told G-3: "We got hit by a counterattack this morning and it was about over by the time we could get the tanks up there. As long as our tanks keep behind the Battalion OP they will be all right and they will be right up there if the counter- attack starts (again).

Lt. Harry Durkee, Co. C, 275th, recollecting: "On the 23rd, the remnants of Co. C were pinned down by sniper fire from close range. The snipers' concealment defied our efforts to spot them, and several men were hit when they raised their heads to search. After nightfall, I conferred with Sgt. George Kwant and decided that the remaining 11 of us would all move out of our holes at daybreak and hunt them down. At dawn, when I climbed out my foxhole to alert Kwant, a sniper's bullet . . . hit me squarely in the forehead." Durkee was taken to the rear, and 1st Sgt. John Mercy took over command of Co. C.

Col. George Barten remembers: "After capturing Zinzing, the Battalion's advance took it up over the wooded ridges overlooking the Siegfried Line. Dr. Kurt Lekisch, the battalion surgeon, took care of wounded men right up in front-line positions to maximize their chances of survival. From up front he evacuated men with plasma being administered from bottles rigged up on the jeep carrier while en route to the Zinzing battalion aid station. (Col. Barten is remembered to have denied Lekisch's earlier request to accompany Co. G in its February 6 raid on Grosbliederstroff. Evidently the doctor persisted in his efforts to be where men were being wounded, and his battalion commander saw the merit of giving quick treatment despite the increased risk of losing his fine surgeon.)

In view of enemy pressure on the 274th, the G-3 called the 276th's Col. Morgan and relayed Gen. Barnett's order that the 276th send its Co. A reinforced with HMG and 81mm sections by truck to the 274th 1st Bn CP at Etzling. In addition, the order provided for the 276th's alerting a second rifle company as a contingency should additional help be needed.

Paul Newman, Co. D, 2 76th, recalls: "One of the jobs of a mortar crew member is to maintain telephone contact with the OP. One day near Forbach our line kept getting knocked out. Four of us were detailed for the third repair job. At the edge of Forbach we were caught in an artillery barrage that ruined our new spool of wire and left the jeep with four flats. After attempting unsuccessfully to get to the OP on foot, we returned to the platoon CP and reported our failure. On reporting to the lieutenant, I was braced for a dressing-down when he pinned the Combat Infantry Badge on me-what a happy surprise!"

This account of the 70th Division's Saar campaign has thus far focused almost entirely on what the Division's infantry was doing, for indeed the pay-off for a division's effort is usually measured in terms of the ground taken or lost up front. However, what is accomplished up front is surely the consequence of teamwork within and among all divisional components, of the direction and support from the rear and of cooperation with units on either flank. What the infantry did on Feb. 24 is summarized above. Examples of what other components involved were doing that same day follow.

70th Rcn Troop checked and reported the capacity of Saar bridges at Grosbliederstroff and 2 miles south as 40 tons and 13 tons.

353rd AAA Searchlight Bn was given authority to illuminate an enemy blimp which had previously been detected after nightfall just north of the Forbach area. This was to enable the shootdown of the blimp with AA fire.

Two USAAC fighter-bomber sortees ran missions to identify, mark and attack targets in the Schoeneck area near Forbach.

Support engineers were authorized to install fixed timber bridges under existing Bailey bridges to enable removal of the Baileys for use elsewhere.

749th Tank Bn obtained permission to bring in a tank retrieval vehicle to recover three of its tanks that had been mired down or disabled in the 275th sector.

Paul Gartenmann, 1st Bn Hqs Co., 275th, narrates: "During the attack in the Stiftswald, one of the supporting tanks got hit and threw a track; its crew abandoned it. That night a crew from our motor pool went up and repaired the damaged track. A 1st Bn man named Nelson was found who could drive a tank. In his honor the tank was renamed 'Lord Nelson.' Can you imagine what it meant to me to be able to radio a call for 'the Lord'-our very own tank- when we got in a jam outside the Siegfried? The tankers came back a few days later and wanted their vehicle back. Guess what we told them!"

CO, 275th arranged with G-3 to have 70th Rcn Troop extend its patrols to secure the 275th supply route near the Sarre River. There was discussion between G-3 and an officer of 99th Chemical Mortar Battalion about the relief and replacement of a chemical (4.2-inch) mortar platoon from the 99th attached to the 70th.

The enemy remained relatively quiet on Feb. 25. The men of the 274th took advantage of the respite by digging their positions deeper. Other than a few brief exchanges of small arms firing, the 274th sector was without hostile action. Also "Jig Company" was organized. There were 150 replacements for the Regiment being held in the rear by order of the Division Commander, not to be committed except in case of emergency. The 274th's situation having become critical, the 150 men were organized as Jig Company, equipped and sent under command of S-4 Capt. Underwood to take over the securing of Pfaffenberg hill and relieve the force on duty there.

"Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes": During Jig Company's organization staging, one of the recruits was heard to ask as he was handed an M-1, bandolier of ammunition and several hand grenades: "Say, aren't we going to get any more infantry training?" The response to the question went unrecorded.

In the 275th sector there was intermittent incoming artillery fire all night and through the day. Shortly before dawn a jeep driver en route to 1st Bn CP was killed and his jeep was blown up by an enemy patrol. Co. I detected a 15-man enemy patrol and killed five, dispersing the rest. In the only offensive action of the day, the 1st and 2nd battalions made a late-afternoon attack, pushing 200-300 yards into the NE corner of the Stiftswaid and taking a key terrain feature previously affording the enemy a position from which to harass frontal positions and through which enemy armor had launched attacks.

On Feb. 26 the enemy launched another counterattack. This was the final blow in the series to reestablish a position on the high ground that had been wrested from him in the Trailblazers' offensive when the 274th and 275th took their final objective. The German attack started well before dawn, and the Kreutzberg Ridge, where the 274th 2nd Battalion defended it, was the objective. The Battalion's position was strong, but the enemy assault groups penetrated it by working up wooded draws to get behind Cos. E and F.

Maj. Buford Boyd, the Battalion Commander, had anticipated the possibility of such penetrations. He contacted Col. Conley, furiously urging that the Battalion be allowed to withdraw to a series of trenches, part of the Siegfried outer defenses. Conley quickly concurred. The withdrawal was made, but not without some difficulties and casualties. After a series of German attacks on the new position was thrown back, the enemy withdrew and dug in on the lower slopes of Kreutzberg Ridge.

At 2:50 p.m., while the German attacks continued, Col. Townsend, the G-3, called his staff from the 274th CP and noted that he had instructed the 274th CO to pull his troops back to ground of his own choosing to stop further penetration.

He also noted that an enemy unit in the attack had been identified as the 1125th Infantry. This was a second regiment of 559th VG Division, the first, the 1126th, having been committed two days before. Col. Townsend learned from his staff officer, Maj. Bremer, that he had passed Gen. Barnett's order to the 276th Infantry to alert its Co. E and Co. H to be prepared to move by truck to reinforce the 274th if ordered by the CG. It was clear that the enemy counter-attack was causing deep concern. However, it appears that it never became necessary to move in these reinforcements, the 274th having managed on its own.

The last two days of February were uneventful. The enemy had spent his strength, and the Trailblazer Division had a few days to contemplate its next objectives-the final mopping-up of Forbach, the taking of Stiring-Wendell, and then the main positions in the Siegfried Line. In the 11 days of its offensive, it had penetrated the primary defenses of the enemy in front of the Siegfried Line and had established a foothold on German soil. More than 1800 prisoners had been taken. The Division's casualties totaled 1662, of which 207 had been killed and 231 were missing-the price had not been cheap.

The Saar is Crossed; the City Taken

On March 1, the three regiments were disposed with the 276th 3rd and 1st battalions approaching the railroad embankment in the northwest corner of Forbach, Co. G in regimental reserve and Cos. E and F still attached to the 274th. In the center, the 274th had its 3rd and 2nd battalions on the south edge of Stiring-Wendel; 1st Battalion was on the right, and Co. E and Cos. E and F/276th were in reserve. The 275th had its 3rd battalion and Co. A/274 on the left in the Gifertwald, 1st battalion on the right front in the Pfaffenwald, and 2nd battalion covering the Division's right flank along the Saar River. Immediate tasks were: 276th-complete the clearing of Forbach; 274th-take Stiring-Wendel; 275th-defend its portion of the Division objective.

Lawrence Southard, Co. G, 275th recollects:

"Gen. Herren paid a surprise visit to G Cos. forward positions early one morning, walking up toward the crest of the high ground a few yards below which the foxholes of Lt. Paul McCoy's platoon were located. Near one of the foxholes, he stood looking down on the Siegfried Line. The occupant looked around and, seeing him, blurted out, 'Get down, you SOB, don't you know there are snipers out there!' Hitting the ground, the general crawled to the foxhole, thanked the soldier, and then disappeared, crawling back to the rear."

The enemy deployed a mixture of 347th VGD and 559th VGD elements against each of the regiments and held in reserve an odd collection of units, including the Assault Bn of First Army HQ. Battle Group of Zweibruecken Volksturm, 67th Mtn Rcn Bn, and 17th SS PGD Assault Gun Bn. Among the units identified by the 70th Div G-2 as being possibly available for commitment was the 6th SS Mtn Div, out of contact after last being identified in the nearby Bitche area.

The journal of Division G-2 records: "Four Yugoslav civilians who left Stiring-Wendel on March 1 were detained and interrogated by the IPW team. They reported seeing only seven German soldiers there and that civilian residents were complaining about U.S. artillery shooting up their town already abandoned by nearly all German forces." In view of the hard fighting that the 274th later encountered in Stiring-Wendel, it seems that this report could have resulted from an intentional deception.

The first two days of March were spent reorganizing, regrouping and patrolling. On the 2nd, in the only action noted for that day in the 70th Division Narrative History, E/276 dispersed enemy combat patrols which had attacked it near Kreutzberg Ridge in what turned out to be a farewell ceremony marking the end of its attachment to the 274th. Shortly, Co. E returned to its own regiment. Otherwise, enemy action was confined to sporadic mortar and artillery fire.

For the resumption of the attack on March 3, the Divarty field order indicated where enemy resistance was expected to be toughest. The 882nd, 883rd, and 884th were to provide direct support of their normal combat-team partner regiment; the 725th FA Bn was to reinforce the 882nd's fire support of the 274th's attack into Stiring-Wendel.

Recollections of Andy Davenport, C/882 FA:

"Lt. Howard Peck was forward observer of a team including 'Red' Turner, radio operator, and Davenport as scout corporal. The morning of the attack into Stiring-Wendel, the team set up its OP in the woods overlooking the town. A telephone wire was run up the hill and the radio and the telephone remote control were placed in a two-manjigxhole. Before 274th's attack, a Kraut counterattack started, and Peck requested fire on the enemy. However, due to the steep terrain, the incoming shells with their proximity fuses began going off right over Turner's and Davenport's foxhole. When we got our guns to ceasefire, we could hear Kraut skirmishers coming, firing short bursts to draw fire. We got out of there fast."

In the 276th's attack, the assault companies were I, K, A, C and an attached company of the French Lorraine Division. Their advance quickly covered all untaken ground before the railroad embankment and continued, on the left, along the roads from Forbach to the west, northwest and north. However, the underpass of the road to Im Bruch was a problem. Mines in the underpass and heavy enemy fire blocked Co. K and Co. A behind it, several supporting tanks being lost to the mines there. On the right, Co. C and the French company crossed the tracks but were halted by enemy resistance from the Nord Caserne. At dusk the 3rd Battalion advance to the west approached Marienau.

The G-2 journal says: "According to their major in charge, the French infantry attached to the 276th were under orders to send POW's to the French POW facility in Metz and not turn them over to 70th. He at last agreed to Division's questioning their POW's while under French guard but they were not to be evacuated in U.S. channels.One of their POW's was thought to have infor- mation on gun positions at the Simon Mine." This complication with the French Ally was not isolated. Capt. Fred Cassidy recalls 274th orders not to use attached French troops in any combat action. In Stiring-Wendel they were used to handle the Allied POW's that flocked into that town.

Against Stiring-Wendel, the 274th advanced from Kreutzberg Ridge and Sangenwald, with 3rd, 2nd, and 1st battalions abreast. Less resistance was encountered in wooded approaches than through open areas or along roads and trails, stubbornly covered by enemy MG fire; during the day, mortar and artillery fire ranged from moderate to heavy. By late afternoon, 2nd Bn was fighting inside Stiring-Wendet, the other two battalions having taken Sophie to the south and reached the Metz Highway to the cast of that town. From its sector, 275th fire supported the advance of the 274th.

Hy Schorr H1274, recollects: "Advancing through the woods, his HMG squad came under heavy shellfire. The gunner, Pfc William E.Beldon, was evaluated. Then squad leader Sgt. Harold W. Kline was hit in the thigh, and though protesting, was evacuated. That left Al Vargo and Schorr the only survivors of the squad."

Col. George Barten, 2nd Bn, 275, reported that the OP of 2nd Bn, 275 on the Division right flank, overlooked the Saar River and German positions across it, since the Battalion's advance had outstripped that of the 63rd Division by a half mile. The 63rd assistant division commander visited this OP to plan his division's attack and later to observe it. Barten was skeptical when he heard of the 63rd plan to spearhead its attack with tanks. Later he and 63rd's general watched the attack. "We looked right up the flank of the assaulting force. I observed flashes around our tanks and thought they were firing. I was wrong. Within minutes the five lead tanks were hit by German fire, and the attack halted." Like the 70th's, the 63rd's assault of well-defended ridges rimming the German border was costly - it took two days of hard fighting for the 63rd to clear this objective.

On the 4th, the 276th jumped off at 9 a.m., the enemy resisting strongly, particularly at the underpass. The 2nd Battalion, brought up from reserve, advanced into Forbach Forest. Finally, blasting from Corps Artillery's big guns enabled Cos. K and A to advance beyond the underpass and approach the Nord Caserne. On the left Marienau was taken.

Supporting tanks finally got through the underpass and began blasting the German defenders from house after house. They were well protected by rifle fire from enemy attempts to fire Panzerfaust projectiles from windows. The slugging lasted all day, with the Germans grudgingly retreating to the northwest end of town. Just before dusk the 276th assault battalions pulled back to the embankment while an artillery barrage softened the enemy-held section, then advanced behind a rolling barrage to clear it.

The 274th attacked at 6:30 a.m., the 1st Battalion entering the east end of Stiring-Wendel and 3rd Bn, the west side. The 2nd Bn reached the middle of town against resistance centering on elevating-rotating pillboxes protected by mine fields and supported by continuous mortar and artillery fire. A low cloud ceiling hampered the attackers' use of air support.

On March 5 the clearing of Forbach was completed when 276th 1st Bn took Nord Caserne against light resistance. Reaching Im Bruch, 3rd Bn turned left and cleared the woods to the southwest. 2nd Bn's advance in Forbach Forest was stopped at the well-defended embankment of a railroad spur line from the Simon Mine. In Stiring-Wendel, 2nd Bn, 274 mopped up enemy strong points. In the early morning a mass of Allied POW's fleeing from their prison hospital was taken under fire by an enemy MG as they approached Stiring-Wendel along the Metz Highway - several were wounded. The 2nd Battalion spent the rest of the day feeding and providing for the evacuation of these men, mostly Russians, but also Czechs, Frenchmen, Poles and Yugoslavs. 3rd Battalion cleared Neue Glashutte on the Metz Highway, west of Stiring-Wendel.

S/Sgt. Malcolm Ruthven, C/274, wounded in the face as he directed his men in the mopping-up, just pitched a grenade into the cellar where the shot came from. That ended resistance there. After receiving medical treatment, Ruthven, peered with one eye from under the bulky bandage and commented to a companion: "Even with one eye, you still look uglier than me."

The 274th's Sgt. Martin Sviger, who spoke Yugoslav and French, was the busiest man in Stiring-Wendel. The newly liberated POW's were anxious to hear about news of the war. A Russian officer, just given a hasty briefing by Sviger, jumped on a packing case and relayed the news of victory after victory on both Western and Eastern fronts, each one greeted by loud cheers from his country men.

Early March 6, enemy infiltrating patrols got behind F/276 and cut if off, but prompt counteraction by Cos. E and G effected its relief. Enemy armor appeared and the fighting raged on until 12:30 p.m., when the 2nd Battalion's front opposed to the railroad embankment was finally restored. Meanwhile the 3rd Battalion moved up and extended the 2nd Battalion's front to the west. The 1st Battalion advanced further west in Forbach Forest against light resistance. After repelling enemy counterattacks in the late afternoon, the Regiment withdrew several hundred yards and dug in.

Capt. Roger L. Conarty halted his Co. L, 276th advance and crawled forward to scout the railroad embankment. When he returned to his company he radioed to Battalion his judgment that the embankment could not be taken. Soon the Regimental Commander called on the radio and, receiving the same report from Conarty, ordered him to advance his company or face court martial. Conarty respectfully refused, and the advance was postponed. The next morning the assistant division commander and regimental commander visited the Co. L position. After they reconnoitered and conferred, they ordered Conarty to keep his company where it was.

At 6:30 a.m. 3rd Bn, 274 with tank support attacked the Simon Mine and factory west of Stiring-Wendel and penetrated the minefield. It withdrew after testing the defenses and finding them formidable and in need of softening by bombardment.

Late that night Division arranged for the bombing and shelling of enemy defenses opposing the 276th Regiment and 274th's 3rd Bn after these elements had been withdrawn. This was to be followed closely by the new advance of these units. However, the persisting low ceiling on March 7 prevented the aerial bombardment while the artillery concentrations fired were judged to be insufficient preparation for the infantry assault, which was postponed.

According to the G-3 journal: "Divarty fired a TOT concentration on enemy strong points. In the late afternoon a concentration was fired on the Simon Mine complex. During the day 73 missions were fired - a total of 901 rounds."

A conference among corps, division, and concerned regimental commanders concluded that the infantry units which had been pulled back should hold their positions until intensive reconnaissance had been made of the enemy defenses. Orders were: Dig in. So the 70th Div reverted to the defensive by Corps order. For several days there was a lull in the action. In a redisposition, 276th 3rd Bn, 274th 2nd Bn and 275th Cos. I and A were withdrawn from the line and sent to locations in the rear (see map). The 883rd FA experimented with flamethrower fluid as a filler for 105mm shells with unsatisfactory results. Division Artillery fired many successful missions.

A Mark VI Tiger tank was destroyed by six rounds of 725th's howitzers. The 270th Engineers were busy clearing mine fields, constructing defenses, rebuilding roads, and searching buildings for unexploded bombs. An intensive search was made after a time bomb was discovered in the Nord Caserne, where troops of the 276th were located.

The stage for the 70th's grand finale was being set in the first 10 days of March, 1945. In that period the 276th had cleared Forbach and the 274th had taken Stiring-Wendel.

The Saar Valley operation began with the 70th in French territory. But the Trailblazers soon crossed the border into Germany. There they encountered a defensive complex from which the enemy fought bitterly. Natural terrain advantages had been cleverly enhanced with elaborate and modem fortifications. Especially dangerous were the well-organized defenses along a railroad embankment that ran westward from Simon Mine and clear around that area east of Forbach.

Although by this time the enemy had reached the bottom of his manpower barrel, he was able to make full use of his position advantages with his limited forces, and quite often, they fought with skill and determination. It proved to be a stern test for the 70th Division which it passed with flying colors, but not without paying a grim price in killed, in wounded, and in hardship for all.

The commanding general of the XXIst Corps, late on March 7, after conferring with Trailblazer leaders, had ordered a temporary halt to the series of 70th attacks. These offensives had begun on February 17. Since then the Division had liberated 18 towns and had taken 2,034 prisoners.

The pause in fighting was only temporary, a chance to take a deep breath while steeling for the knockout punch on the grand prize, Saarbrucken itself. There was no idleness; Division regiments worked on defenses and organized a reserve line extending from the high ground south of Forbach through the Kreuzberger Ridge to the Pfaffenberg Ridge below Spicheren.

Reconnoitering kept a close eye on the enemy, probing his formidable defenses. Enemy defenses were now manned by elements of two divisions, the 347th Infantry and 559th Volks Grenadier, separated by a boundary running through Schoeneck and Forbach, with the 347th west of it. The estimated infantry strength of each division was about 1,200. There were four additional battalions - three Volkssturm and one Landesschuetzen (district police)-totalling another 1,200, mainly held in reserve. The identified artillery support comprised 20 105mm. howitzers.

Andy Davenport, C/882 FA recalls: "A lot of counterbattery fire hit the 882nd's gun positions near Forbach. One afternoon a 155mm Long Tom outfit arrived and set up close by, commenced firing and continued all night. Every time they fired, the sleepless 882nd cannoneers were lifted up a half foot. The 155's were pulled out the next morning leaving the 882nd batteries to catch hell from the counter-fire attracted by the all-night barrage." Davenport saw a six-by loaded with 105 ammo set on fire by an incoming shell. "The powder bags were burning next to the projectiles still in the bed of the truck. Some idiot jumped up in the truck and kicked the burning bags out. He got the Bronze Star."

Maj. Roger Seely, Assistant Division G-2, in telephone contacts with each regiment, cautioned them to keep patrols alert for indications of enemy withdrawal. Early on March 13 a sharp decrease in enemy activity was noticed, and patrols were pushed forward that afternoon. The patrols advanced, without resistance in the 276th sector into Petite Rosselle; and in the 274th sector, to the Simon Mine. Learning this, Gen. Barnett immediately ordered these regiments to pursue the enemy to the Saar River, and the renewed advance quickly overran enemy delaying forces, but were hindered somewhat more by mine fields.

The pursuit continued throught the night and into the next day, March 14. The enemy's sporadic firing and field fortifications caused only minor delays, and by noon the assault units of the two regiments had added Schoeneck, Krughutte, Petite Roselle, Simon Mine, Clarenthal, Furstenhausen, and Gersweiler to the list of objectives taken. At various points Trailblazer patrols reached the south bank of the Saar but took care to avoid exposure to enemy fire from the opposite bank.

With the enemy seemingly on the run, Gen. Barnett issued Field Order No. 2 directing his units to "advance rapidly, clear (the Division) zone to the south bank of the Saar River, and reduce Saarbrucken, south of the River. Cross the Saar River . . . not earlier than D plus 1, establish a bridgehead, and prepare to advance to the northeast or assist the 63rd Division in reducing Saarbrucken." This order assigned to the 274th and a company of attached tanks the job of clearing the city south of the River. But the 1st Battalion, in readiness to make the attack, was hit by a predawn counterattack which it finally repelled after several hours. Its own attack was therefore delayed until 4 p.m.

"Snow, Ridges and Pillboxes," page 252: "Baker Company was selected to spearhead the attack.... My platoon jumped offfirst," said S/Sgt. Rysso. "I had two squads forward and one back. As soon as we started to move, the Krauts threw over a lot of artillery and mortars, but most of it fell back of us. Pfc. Condict was the first man over the knob of the hill. When he came back, he was sweating and pale. 'It's going to be rough,' was all he would say. At the top of the hill the lead squads could all see the dragon teeth, pillboxes, dugouts, and trenches. The Krauts waited until we were out on the flat ground and then cut loose." The platoon took casualties and became pinned down. Shermans came up to help the attack get started again but soon withdrew, the tankers saying the ground was too soft and dragon teeth would block their advance anyway. After taking more casualties, Rysso withdrew his remaining men back off the hill.

The attack order assigned the 275th to "make an offensive demonstration" toward the Siegfried Line and be prepared to attack into St. Arnaul.

A composite 17-man patrol from the 275th 1st Bn., including two lieutenants, descended from the wooded ridge to probe into the dragon teeth and see whether the enemy was still manning the Siegfried defenses. Having determined that the Germans had not withdrawn, the patrol started to move back up the ridge when three enemy MG's suddenly opened up hitting many and pinning everyone down with cross-fire. Pfc. Jesse Cain rose and broke from his scant cover amid a hail of bullets to fetch aid for the wounded. Harry Knarr, platoon leader, and Charles Paskvan, BAR-man, were both wounded. Pvt. Emelio Sanders, the recon expert, was killed. Before going out on the mission, he had told a friend he would not survive and left his watch to be sent to Sanders' father in Mexico. Similarly, Paskvan had left his watch and a letter home with his foxhole buddy, Rubenstein, in case he didn't come back. The casualty count-KIA, 9, WIA, 7.

On the left, the 276th Infantry had reached the south bank of the Saar, but there its patrols became engaged by enemy firing from fortifications along the far bank. In the center, the spearheading 274th 1st Bn withdrew at nighfall to dig in on the reverse slope from enemy bunkers and pillboxes. On the right, the 275th remained confronted by the Siegfried defenses at St. Amaul.

Early in March, Patton's Third Army, on the left of the 70th, had driven northeast to reach the Rhine near Bonn. Then, a few days later, the Third jumped across the Moselle to attack east and southeast and threaten from the rear the German Siegfried defenses against which the Trailblazers were pressing.

Lawrence Southard, G/275 recalls: "Co. G had been ordered to attack at 9 a.m. to open a breach in the Siegfried Line right where the Co. A patrol had been wiped out the day before. Co. G had helped recover the wounded and dead and as its CO I was worried. There was anxious waiting while the 9 a.m. attack was moved back to 12 noon, then to12:30 a.m. the next day. Clearly, there had been a major disruption of the operations schedule."

(Editor's note: Apparently the delay was the result of an exchange between Gen. Barnett and Gen. Alexander Patch, commander of the Seventh Army. Patch had come to the 70th area to pressure Barnett to get his division across the Saar and take Saarbrucken. Barnett, remembering the bloody action of the day before, argued that the Third Army's drive would soon make the tough Siegfried defenses untenable. He didn't want to send his men needlessly early. Evidence suggests that he won his point, hence the delay.)

For the next few days the infantry patrolled the Saar's south bank while division artillery and the 648th TD Battalion fired hundreds of missions. Many other weapons were used to chime in on the serenade.

At Wehrden on March 17, the 276th Infantry tested enemy river-line defenses by sending patrols to attempt crossing in boats. Heavy enemy MG and rifle fire and several casualties taken by the patrols proved that the Germans had not yet withdrawn. Further east, a Co.I, 274th, river-bank patrol drew considerable fire.

On March 18, Division was notified that Third Army troops had reached St. Wendel, behind Saarbrucken. Division again alerted regiments to watch for signs of enemy withdrawal.

On March 19, Division ordered the 276th that day to force a crossing of the Saar. The 274th and 275th were ordered to support the 276th by fire. Division Artillery, reinforced by the 17th FA Group and Group Kastner, were to support the crossing, and the 648th TD Battalion was to provide direct support to the infantry. 70th Recon Troop was to prepare to cross the Saar River and maintain contact with the enemy.

The 276th regrouped and prepared for the crossing while the other two regiments carried on reconnaissance by fire. This was met by enemy MG fire from pillboxes and mortar and artillery fire was dropped on covered approaches. However, aerial observation brought reports of civilian and enemy troop withdrawals and of bridges being demolished.

At 11:30 p.m., March 19, the first wave from Co. C, 276th crossed the Saar near Hostenbach without opposition. At 3 o'clock the next morning, Co. B was ferried across the river. Meanwhile engineers set to work constructing foot and vehicular bridges. At 7 a.m. the 276th 3rd and 2nd battalions began crossing the completed foot bridge.

The 274th's 3rd Battalion, at 5:08 a.m. began crossing the river by boat at Ottenhausen. The 2nd Battalion had cleared it by 10a.m. and advanced to the north. The 1st Battalion remained on the south side and joined elements of the 275th in clearing high ground around the Metz Highway.

The 275th began its advance at noon, its 2nd Battalion moving through St. Arnaul while the 1st and 3rd Battalions moved along the Metz Highway. By nightfall the lst and 3rd Battalions, 276th, occupied Puttlingen. The 2nd Battalion moved into Altenkessel, west of Saarbrucken; 1st Bn, 274th, was in Saarbrucken. Elements of the 2nd were in Dudweiler, Hirschbach, Friedrichsthal, and Bildstock. The 3rd Battalion, 274th occupied Fischbach. The 275th, after clearing St. Arnaul, mopped up Saarbrucken, a city with a 1939 population of 133,000.

Records indicated that the 276th, which made the first crossings of the Saar, remained west of Saarbrucken, while Col. Karl Landstrom's 3rd Bn, 274th, had the honor of first entering the part of Saarbrucken which is on the north side of the Saar.

Recollections of Fred Cassidy G/274: "On March 20 Co. G passed through Saarbrucken. When Lt. Col. Bob Cheves ordered me to keep going as far as I could, I commandeered trucks and moved on. At each town I called the buergermeister and instructed him to have all males aged 12 to 70 and arms brought to the town square. Then I'd drop off two squads and move on. When I got to Bildstock, I had 12 men left and set them up in three houses in a triangle. At 3 a.m. we heard tanks and troops coming up from our left rear; after I passed the word to lie low and fire only on my command, we heard obvious GI chatter in the street. It turned out to be a Third Armv element that had crossed over into the Seventh Army zone. It has been said that ours was the furthest penetration into Germanv of any Seventh Armv unit."

Offensive operations of the 70th in the Saar region were concluded on March 22. By then it had completed 86 days in continuous contact with the enemy. On March 21, the Division was relieved of its attachment to the XXIst Corps, under Seventh Army, and reverted to the direct control of the Seventh Army. During March the Trailblazers had captured 1,724 prisoners while it sustained 862 casualties: 149 killed, 692 wounded, and 21 missing.

By the end of March the 70th had received warning orders in preparation for its assignment to the Third Army, with which it would remain until the end of the war.

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